Chicago council votes to reform police misconduct investigations
July 19, 2007 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A unanimous vote by Chicago City Council Thursday on how the city's police department is policed means big changes for a key city office. The council voted 48-0 to approve Mayor Daley's recommendation to overhaul the Office of Professional Standards. The move comes after a number of high-profile misconduct cases against the department.
Some of the activists who have been fighting police brutality for years say the new ordinance still doesn't give OPS enough teeth, or independence, but their aldermanic allies call it a work in progress and a good first step. Mayor Daley, who announced a new head of OPS Thursday after tweaking the ordinance just enough to satisfy the entire City Council, calls the reform package "historic."
"I think this is historic legislation. It will be followed in other cities and states and the federal government," said Mayor Richard Daley.
The City Council vote to reform the Office of Professional Standards was unanimous Thursday, 48-0, following weeks of intense negotiations, revisions and compromises aimed at cracking down on abusive cops who have cost taxpayers tens of millions in court settlements without punishing or stigmatizing good cops who are falsely accused of brutality.
"We must have them applied in terms of suspension and termination when these acts take place," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.
"Bad officers should be held accountable but innocent ones should not be dragged through the mud," said Ald. James Balcer, 11th Ward.
The OPS reforms include moving the agency from police headquarters to City Hall, making it more independent with subpoena power to investigate a much wider range of allegations, faster and more openly, with tougher penalties for interference.
The mayor also named an expert on police abuse from Los Angeles, Ilana Rosenzweig, who comes highly recommended by Chicago community leaders to run the newly reformed OPS.
"We are very excited about her. I think the must exciting this is she has done this before," said Andre Grant, OPS search committee.
"It allows me to look at things with a fresh set of eyes which I think is important in this situation. I don't come in with preconceived notions," said Ilana Rosenzweig, new OPS director.
"None of us here knew who it was, we were not consulted, the community was not consulted. We don't know if she's good, bad or indifferent. That's not the way business should be transacted," said Flint Taylor, lawyer for abuse victims.
The local activists who have been fighting police brutality for years also believe the mayor and the police superintendent should be totally removed from OPS.
"I'm very disappointed in the fact that the ordinance does not have the teeth that it should have in regard to true independence," Taylor said.
Flint Taylor, who has been representing abuse victims for 32 years, says Mayor Daley and his police superintendents have a history of protecting rogue officers, that hardly inspires confidence, and the ordinance fails to confront sections of the police union contract that allegedly protect abusive cops. Some of the aldermen agree. But they voted for the ordinance because they are confident the mayor will be open to more reforms in the future if they are justified.
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